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Parishes reach out to those who are struggling at Christmas

Monday, January 07, 2019 - Updated: 10:19 am

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

Offering hot meals to those who would have spent Christmas alone, toys to needy children and holiday treats for people who had to work, parishioners across the diocese served as the heart and hands of Jesus on his birthday.

More than 200 free meals were provided by 125 volunteers at Our Lady of Joy Parish’s fourth annual Christmas Day Brunch, according to co-chairs Sal Altomare and Bill Molyneaux. Visitors came from 11 different localities in the East Hills, Allegheny Valley and the city of Pittsburgh.

Volunteers also gave rides to the church social hall and delivered food to the homebound. Local grocery stores and restaurants contributed more than $500 in gift cards. More than 200 dozen cookies, doughnuts and other baked goods were donated.

“We were overjoyed to see the smiles on the faces of our guests as we endeavored to show them the love of Christ,” said parishioner Irene Plutto, who helped publicize the event. “Last year, one man who attended the brunch was so touched that he returned to the faith after 25 years.”

Meanwhile, four parishes in Pittsburgh’s Brookline and Beechview neighborhoods — St. Pius X, St. Catherine of Siena, Resurrection and Our Lady of Loreto — helped the neighboring Episcopal Church of the Advent serve some 900 meals on Christmas.

At St. James Parish in Sewickley, about 100 people joined in a Christmas Day lunch prepared and served by volunteers. The local St. Vincent de Paul Society also delivered food to families two days before Christmas, according to parish administrator Father Jim Farnan.

The Ladies of Charity in the McKeesport-Versailles-White Oak grouping of Corpus Christi, St. Patrick, St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Angela Merici parishes again sponsored giving trees. Corpus Christi handed out presents to underprivileged children at the Boys and Girls Club in McKeesport.

They also made sandwiches and snacks for 80 students at two local middle schools for the holiday break.

“Our parishes are filled with people who reach out to make Christmas special for others,” said administrator Father Terry O’Connor. “It was beautiful to see the excitement of kids who don’t have much.”

In Beaver County, volunteers from St. Frances Cabrini Parish and other churches brought donated cookies and candy to those who had to work on Christmas Day. About 250 bags were delivered to 40 sites, including police and fire stations, nursing homes, a women’s shelter, drug rehabilitation clinic, motels and gas stations.

“They were so happy that people were thinking of them,” organizer Peg Bishop said. “There were many smiles and hugs, and quite a few looks of surprise!”

The ministry began seven years ago at Manna Soup Kitchen in Aliquippa and has grown to include several faith communities.

A family from St. Titus Parish also served meals to 16 guests at the soup kitchen on Christmas Day.

“I was taught that we’re supposed to be doing good things for other people,” Bishop said. “This is such an awesome ministry to be part of. Blessings to all who helped.” 

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